Background I'm 46, single and live in Northern California in the San Francsico Bay area. Before getting hooked on cruising I took several camping trips a year to US national Parks throughout the Western US. Previous cruises include Crown Princess Alaska 5/95, Crown Princess Southern Caribbean 1/96, Crown Princess Southern Caribbean 2/97, Crown Princess LA-Panama Canal-Ft Lauderdale 9/97, Island Princess Alaska 6/98, Crown Princess Tahiti-Hawaii 10/98, Norway Norwegian highlights 6/99, Mercury Alaska 9/99, Rhapsody Mexican Riveria 1/00. As you can see I got hooked on cruising quickly.
Flights to/from Ft Lauderdale I flew on TWA from SF to St Louis and on to Fl Lauderdale. Flights heading East went smoothly with only a short connection in St Louis, finally arriving about 11am. After a short cab ride spent Saturday night at the Amerisuites hotel. Flights home were more of a problem as when I arrived in St Louis only to find out the next flight had a broken autopilot. TWA found another plane quickly but transferring passengers and luggage and loading fuel delayed takeoff for over two hours. We then dodged thunderstorms heading west to finally arrive back in SF at about 9:45pm. All 4 flights were overbooked because of Spring Break and if I didn't have to get to the ship or back to work I could have gotten a sweet deal for being bumped. Meals aboard the flights were the worst I've ever had,I didn't think it was possible for airline food to go much further down.
Embarkation/Debarkation The whole process went extremly smoothly and quickly at both ends of the cruise. When I arrived at the terminal I was directed by a friendly security guard to move to the far side of the waiting room to be at the head of the line when they opened. When the process started sure enough I was among the first group through. Check in was by deck and cabin number and after 5 minutes I was directed upstairs to the gangway. Another short wait and I was one of the first on board. I arrived at my cabin before 12 noon.
Cabin My cabin was A204 the first inside cabin on Aloha deck. Standard cabin, with a double bed and a fridge. (loved this to keep my Cokes and Red Stripe beer cold) As I was travelling alone there was plenty of storage space but it would get tight with two people. 3-4 would have major storage problems. Noise was never a problem although I did hear the occasional echo of footsteps on a staircase in the crew area forward of my cabin. Hallway traffic was not a problem as I was essentially at a dead end. Sea motion was also never really felt even though it was noticable throughout the ship.
Overall Ship The Grand is certainly huge but I never felt crowded and really never had lines for anything. As there are numerous descriptions of the ship I'll skip that. Several areas were very nicely done including the Wheelhouse bar and the Explorer Lounge. I spent most of my time on the upper level of the Calypso pool on the Lido deck. I think that Princess may have gone a little too far in trying to make the Grand feel like a smaller ship in that there was no one single area that just screamed "big". Would have liked to have seen the Atrium extended several deck higher for a more impressive presentation, but in reality I guess that is really just a waste of space. One big negative was the lack of a central staircase. There are stairs at the bow and stern, but why they didn't put a set in the center is beyond me. Overall a very nice ship that has that "Princess" feel to it.
Food I'm far from a gourmet and was very satisfied with the food aboard. Ate all breakfast and lunches at the buffet, pizza and burger stations Dinner was early seating and I never got to try the alternative dining. Several things that I love about Princess food are the pasta courses and the French Onion soup. I did notice several strange things. The hamburgers have been made smaller than on my last cruise, but on lobster night we were served two lobsters without asking. Also I ordered a Hagen-Daz ice cream sundae for $3.75 that was made with 2-3 scoops of ice cream, but when I got a milkshake for $2.75 it was made with 4-5 scoops! Can't figure that one out either.
Shows I was very impressed by all the performers about the Grand, The shows were very good to excellent. Marty Allen was good, Dave Heenan very funny, ventroliquist Gary Hunter very good, the Macaggis excellent,and Alexander the hypnotist hilarious. I attended every show and went to one of Dave Heenans and the Macaggis twice. If I had been at the first show of Alexander I would have definetly gone to the second. Be sure to sit in front for this one to really see peoples reactions.I also was also very impressed by how accessible and visible these people were throughout the cruise. Marty Allen was visible at almost every show I attended, he was sitting in the front row and was obviously having a good time. He could not walk 50 feet without being stopped for a picture or to have his hand shaken and I never saw him turn one down all week. Very pleasant to watch.
Ports We stopped at St Thomas, St Marteen and Princess Cays. I did not take a tour in St Thomas but just walked into town. On the return took the Tram to the top for some pictures and bought some odds and ends at Havensight mall. On St Marteen took the "Under Two Flags" tour and was not real impressed. On both previous visits had done the America's Cup regatta and wish I had done it again. Ate lunch in town and just wandered around taking pictures in the afternoon. Princess Cays is very nice but you could sure use more time. Tendering in eats into the schedule and sailing at 3pm doesn't give you much time here.Crowd tends to go left so head right for some more space.
Conclusions Overall a very nice cruise. The Grand is a huge ship that in some ways feels much smaller than it really is. As Princess says, there are many choices aboard to keep you busy. I like the way they schedule the evening shows to allow you to catch them all, but they could be spaced out another 5-10 minutes to give you more time betwen them.I think the Grand is perfect if your trip has lots of sea days, but think I might prefer a smaller size on some itinearies. For example, my cruise on the Island Princess was perfect to be much more up close and personal in Alaska. I look forward to sailing on the Grand again soon. One negative is that I was surprised at how much motion was felt throughout the ship in realtively calm seas. There was noticable vibration in the stern lounge at almost any time. Not enough to bother me but many people were commenting on the motion.